Leaky Batteries = Ruined Gear… Arghhh!!!!

Kirkland AA Batteries

Before we left to go cruising, we stocked up on AA, AAA and 9v batteries.  We have lots of electronic gear that relies on these batteries, and we wanted to be sure to have plenty of spares.

So when we were in Costco and saw the huge packs of batteries, it was a no-brainer to throw a few packs in the cart and keep moving.  Little did we know that these batteries would eventually cause us all kinds of grief.

Electronic weather station 301

After suffering battery leaks, the outdoor sensor on this weather station stopped communicating reliably…

 

 

As many cruisers eventually do, we left our boat Groovy in the tropics for the hurricane season.  For seven months, we traveled around the mountains in the western US while Groovy was tied up at the dock in Marina Chiapas, Mexico, in sweltering humidity.  How hot and humid was it?  It made Houston in July seem cool and dry!!

When we returned, the boat was in tip-top shape.  We were amazed.  Both the exterior and the interior of the boat looked like we had just gotten off it the day before.  However, our little portable electronic devices were hiding something…

The first thing we noticed was that the outdoor sensor on our electronic indoor-outdoor weather station was no longer communicating with the indoor display.  Mark took it all apart and discovered the AA batteries had leaked all over the interior of the unit.  He cleaned it up as best he could, and got it working, but it failed again and again over the following ten months of our cruise.

More frustrating was that his favorite high-end and expensive LED flashlight couldn’t turn on.  Opening the battery compartment, he found that the AA batteries had leaked all over the interior and were stuck fast inside.  There was no way to pry the batteries out.  This fabulous flashlight that had been used just a few times went in the trash.

Sangean AT-909 ssb radio provisioning

This Sangean AT-909 portable SSB radio had leaky batteries, but was not damaged — thank goodness!!

Mark quickly hunted down every piece of battery operated gear we could find on the boat and checked out the batteries.  All the batteries were leaking.

Many items were salvageable by swabbing the battery compartment with rubbing alcohol and replacing the batteries.  We had stored our spare batteries in a ziploc bag, and they were not leaking in the bag.  But a few other pieces of electronic gear were lost to these leaky batteries.

Part of the problem may be that the cheap Kirkland alkaline batteries aren’t made all that well.  We recently discovered the website http://batteriesandbutter.com which looks to be a great place to buy batteries in bulk.

We were intrigued to see that they list where each battery brand and model they sell is manufactured.  Even with name-brand batteries like Duracell, it turns out you can buy cheaper Chinese-made Duracell batteries or USA-made Duracell batteries for a slightly higher price.  Who knew?

The other problem is that we should not have left the boat for so long with the batteries sitting inside of any piece of gear.  This is common knowledge, but in the excitement of packing up, stowing things, and wiping down every surface with vinegar to prevent mold from growing, it was easy to forget to remove the batteries from everything, including the clock on the wall and the flashlight in the ditch bag.

I hope our mistake will help you avoid this problem on your cruise!!